The embattled former Kwara State youth leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Haliru Mahmud, speaks with DANIEL AYANTOYE about his battle with the state leadership of the party and his subsequent expulsion
You were suspended in August by your party, the Peoples Democratic Party, at the Kwara State level because you circulated a video on social media accusing the leadership of your party of mismanagement. What happened?
After our woeful experience at the 2023 elections despite the huge sum of money received by the party for the elections, I felt something was wrong, and when you do the same thing the same way all the time, you get the same result. I felt it was high time we got back to the drawing board and made a hypothesis on why we lost the elections woefully. Not even a single House of Assembly seat was won. This happened despite the disappointment people had from the All Progressives Congress before the election. Our expectation was so high that we would leverage the poor performance of the APC-led government to win the election, but unfortunately, the reverse was the case.
I was the leader of the party because I was one of the oldest members. I was a member of the State Working Committee. So, I felt the people should account for what was received. They should explain to us how much was received, who received it, and how it was disbursed. I don’t think that was an offence in any way. When you tell a messenger to purchase items, and when he returns home, you see that what he bought is not commensurate with the money given, won’t I ask questions? How is that a crime that should lead to suspension? I feel that as leaders of the party, we should address the issues so that we will not continue to lose elections all the time and then attribute it to rigging or whatever. I asked simple and honest questions and that attracted my illegal suspension.
The national headquarters of the PDP recently overruled your suspension as a youth leader of the party. What led to their intervention?
After I was suspended, I appealed at the national level, and by the grace of the Almighty, on November 28, 2023, my illegal suspension was rejected by the National Working Committee at its 578 NWC meeting. Since the information got to our people, they have not been comfortable, running helter-skelter at the national secretariat, bribing everybody possible to see that they reverse the decisions but that was not done.
In your claims, you accused the former Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, as the person who should give an account of the fund used for the 2023 elections. Why him?
If a person is acknowledged as a leader of your party, he is held responsible for whatever goes wrong in the party. The leader also takes glory for any success. As far as Bukola Saraki is the leader of the PDP in Kwara State, the onus lies on him to explain to us how much he received for the elections, and how he disbursed it. The onus also lies on him to tell us that he wasn’t the one who received the money. For instance, I was the state youth leader of the party; if the youths hear that some money was released to my office for disbursement to them and they decide to ask me, is that a crime? Even if it was a rumour and I’m questioned about it by the youths, it behoves me to explain to them.
There are times they (youths) will accuse me of things that I know nothing about. I take my time to explain to them for their conclusion or further investigation. So, why will a question so important be asked and as a leader, you are not responding? It means something is wrong somewhere because silence is an admittance of guilt. When you are accused of committing a crime and you are taken to court, the court will give you a fair hearing to defend yourself, but when the judge throws a question at you and you don’t answer, it means you have admitted guilt. I don’t know why it is difficult for the leader of the party to explain how election funds were managed.
As the youth leader in the state, are you saying you are not aware or did not receive any part of the funds even during the campaign?
I am not aware. If I am, will I be asking questions? Ordinarily, members of the State Working Committee of the party are supposed to be in the picture of what fund came in and how it was disbursed. But the leader of the party in the state deliberately refused to carry anybody along for reasons best known to him. The party has an account. There was a Director General for the presidential elections; if these monies had come through their account, one of them would have come out to explain how it was disbursed but all of these people didn’t know anything about the election funds, including the state chairman. On June 16, during the State Working Committee meeting, the state chairman told everybody that he didn’t know how much came in, who received it, and how it was disbursed.
It is not a secret that everything that has to do with Kwara State PDP comes through Bukola Saraki. It is not news; everybody knows. But if this one did not come through him, as the leader of the party, he should come public to tell us he didn’t receive any money. Remember that after the 2015 presidential election, there were petitions that Abubakar Sulaimon and Dele Belgore, misappropriated election funds of N450m. They were investigated by the EFCC and subsequently arraigned before a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos. We went there. Yes, N450m was received through an account, and it wasn’t any of their accounts, and we explained to the court how the money was disbursed for the election, and at the end of the day, the court released them as they were not found guilty.
That is how it ought to be. Leadership calls for transparency, accountability, fairness and justice. A leader is like the people’s messenger and in this case, it is not so. Over five months I asked just three questions, and none of them has been answered. How much was received? Who received it? How was it disbursed? Instead of the state chapter looking for how to provide answers to my questions, they are busy posting propaganda on social media. Why? Is it because someone or some people have squandered the election funds? We lost the elections woefully and they cannot account for the money collected. It is a big shame, and it has never been this bad. Even in those days when opposition used to be weak in Kwara State, we used to have opposition in the State House of Assembly but this time around, there is no single one because we do the same thing, the same way and expect a different result. It doesn’t happen anywhere.
Some are saying you are being used by the opposition to tarnish the image of the former Senate President. What can you say about that?
As far as I am concerned, I am too big for someone to use me against anyone. I am not out to tarnish anyone’s image or the party. I am one of those who built the PDP in Kwara State when everybody deserted it. When Saraki and his cohort joined the party in 2018, everybody ran out of the party. The present Kwara State Governor, Mallam Abdulrasaq, was in the PDP then. Many ran away from the PDP when he came in. I remained in the party and the few people that remained with me. I was the one that pinned them down.
Before joining the party, I was the first person Saraki invited to his Maitama residence and we discussed. In 2018, when Saraki and his allies were returning to the PDP, we had an agreement on sharing positions 60:40. Of course, at the executive level, that was implemented but when it came to elective offices, he didn’t implement it. This was one of the grievances that made us lose that election woefully, but we attributed it to the Muhammadu Buhari bandwagon effect. What about 2023 when Buhari was not in government? The ovation was so high for the PDP to have won reasonably but we lost. So, this is not an issue of being used by anyone or the government in power.
The questions I asked are legitimate. Even if it is the ruling party that is using me to ask these questions, where are the answers? Is it the ruling party that seized the answers? When someone is drowning, he holds anything for survival, and that is what is happening to them. I am too big to be used by anybody. If I had wanted to join the APC, I would have been there since 2013 when it was formed because most of the people there formed the Action Congress with us. Lai Mohammed was our publicity secretary and a founding father of the party. I contested on the platform of the party in 2007 for the House of Assembly seat.
So, the people in the APC were my people. If I had joined then, I wouldn’t be doing state youth leadership at my age. All the people in the current House of Assembly (in Kwara State), most of them are my friends and younger ones, including the Speaker. A lot of people in Governor Abdulrahman’s administration are my friends. The governor is a close person; he was the one who bought me my form to become the PDP state officer in 2017 and gave money to all the delegates for the election. So, who is in APC that is not my friend? I don’t understand why it is difficult for Saraki to tell us how much you have received because I am asking as this was one of the major reasons, we lost the elections.
Is your point strong enough to blame Senator Saraki for losing the 2023 election?
Of course, because, he is the leader and whatever he does is final. There is no consultation with anybody. Even when he brings a candidate who cannot win an election and you draw his attention to it, he would not listen. He will do whatever he wants, and you will get very sad results. Thinking I will be intimidated to ask questions, I will continue to ask until an answer is provided, even though I’m no longer in the PDP. For the fact that as of the time the money was released, I was a member of the party and an SWC member, it is still valid.
You also made allegations of forgery against the leadership of the party at the state level. What do you mean by that?
When you suddenly wake up and see a purported letter of apology by you trending on social media, what do you expect when these guys and I have not seen since this crisis started? I wonder how they got the two letters and who gave it to them. They displayed one with a forged signature. That is how they implicated my last two years when they doctored a senator’s video that we supported Kwara North governorship, only for me to be invited by the police headquarters because I shared video clips. They were to take me to court, but we had to settle out of court, and I bailed myself. I didn’t collect any money from anybody for that. A party should be an organisation that promotes ethics and not one that is legendary in forgery and flying fake news; it’s quite unfortunate. Why will I apologise? Is it not someone who committed an offence that apologises?
It was reported that you were invited to appear before a disciplinary committee of your party. Why?
There was a committee and I appeared before it. It was after meeting them that I was suspended. The committee asked me why I made a video about the election funds, and I told them we tried to know how much the election fund was and who received it, and nobody was telling us. The chairman who is supposed to be in the know equally denied knowing anything. The leader has made himself inaccessible because he was evading answering these questions. So, we had to go on air, and I don’t think that is a punishable offence.
Instead of them having a sober reflection and learning from their mistakes, they still intensified their brigandage by going to my ward. One person wrote the names and forged signatures of people. To that effect, they sent me a letter to answer certain questions within 48 hours, and to my dismay, before the expiration of 48 hours, I saw another letter that I was expelled from the party. Even though I had earlier tendered my resignation before their purported letter came out. Their charade is so clear. I need to make it clear that they have no power to do what they did.
Why did your ward decide to expel you now despite the directive by the party at the national level?
They are being coerced. Look at the level of poverty now; it is so high. Some people can sell their birthright for as cheap as N10,000. The letter was sent to me yesterday (Monday) by 8:30pm and on the same day, the letter got to Ilorin, the State Working Committee had a meeting and deliberated on it, approved it and sent it to the national headquarters the same day. It is so funny. The whole process has been premeditated and from the content of the letter, you will know it was written by someone at the state level. When you look at the letter, you will see that it is one person’s handwriting that signed all.
With this development, do you intend to join another party, or what’s next?
I am a businessman and a Chief Executive Officer of my company. Politics is just part-time. If I like, I join another party. I am a critical stakeholder in Kwara State politics, whether you like it or not. We have come a long way in Kwara State politics. There is nothing anybody can tell us about Kwara politics. I can advise the government. Nobody should take politics as a full-time business.